International Quirkyalone Day is an alternative to Valentine’s Day that I started way back in 2003. It falls, of course, on February 14. It’s just a coincidence. Well, that’s our story and we’re sticking with it.
Since then Quirkyalone Day been celebrated in more than 40 cities around the world as an inclusive holiday to celebrate all forms of love, including, of course, self-love! Self-love is the foundation for all your relationships, ultimately–with friends, family, and a romantic partner.
If you are new to the concept and the holiday, here’s a video to get you up to speed.
Let me highlight also that in 2017 it’s more important than ever to recognize that Quirkyalone Day is a celebration of independence.
This year I encourage to celebrate your independent voice and encourage you to use it to speak out!
Political leaders such as Elizabeth Warren are exhibiting this independent streak–and they deserve our support.
I look at the CNN video where Elizabeth Warren talks about being silenced when she tried to read Corretta Scott KIng’s letter on Jeff Sessions and I see people making nasty comments about her that are so similar to the 25-year campaign against Hillary. “Not an Elizabeth Warren fan. I find her loud, abrasive and a liar.” My sense is that any woman who is outspoken is going to get this kind of blowback from men and women. When are people going to wake up to their gender bias?
Just keep on trucking. Just keep on showing up with your quirkyalone spirit.
There have been times in my life when I have doubted, are there really liberated guys out there who want to date liberated women? Sometimes, when you are swiping on Tinder, you lose faith. (Perhaps Tinder is not the best place to look for feminist men!)
Now, after the historic Women’s Marches, now being called the largest demonstrations in U.S. history, with more than 3.3 million attending more marches in more than 500 cities across the country, I can say with more confidence that you are out there. To all the feminist men at the Women’s Marches, whether you came out to join us or you were home watching the kids so your partners could come. We see you. We heart you. We want you. Men supporting female quality is hot!
The Women’s Marches on January 21 showed that when women lead, they bring out the soul of a country.
But it wasn’t just women at the Women’s Marches. There were also lots of men at the march in DC–of all ages, races, and sexualities. (As well as trans people.) A lot of men watched kids so women could go.
The Women’s March was a great reminder that millions of people believe in female equality, but also that there are lots of feminist men out there.
So for a moment, I want to pay tribute to the men. The men who support nasty women!
We don’t need male approval but it’s great to have male allies. We feminist women need you feminist men now more than ever now that we have a pussy-grabbing president until we don’t.
At one point, I was meandering through the crowd in the Women’s March in DC with my friends and I overheard a guy use the words “male privilege.” Where in my life did I ever hear men talk about their male privilege? I didn’t hear the context of what he was talking about, but I could imagine the privilege to negotiate more bluntly at work without fear of being viewed as a bitch, to be single without being called a spinster, to go out at night without fear.
Here’s a guy who acknowledges male privilege and speaks of it. Right on.
I whispered to my friend Sara, “There are so many cute feminist boys here. Awwww.”
A few minutes later I saw a guy with a sign “END LOCKER ROOM TALK.” Again, awesome. A man who wants to challenge the idea that pussy-grabbing without consent is a joke. Swoon again.
For those of us who are single, the feminist men at the march are a great reminder that there are liberated men who want to date a strong woman. I definitely was not thinking of the Women’s March in DC as a place to pick up a guy but by the end of the march, I was thinking, wow, the world is full of way more feminist men than I knew.
The next morning I held a quirkybrunch for single women who had attended the march. We discussed the men at the march and agreed they were awesome. “I want to meet a man like that,” one of the women said.
I told them, “I’m going to put a new picture on my online dating profile: a photo of myself in my pink pussyhat. With the caption, at the Women’s March in DC.” (I can’t let them think it’s a fashion statement devoid of feminist context!)
For my male readers, I’m not telling you to call yourself as a feminist as a come-on. But if you do support women openly and embody feminism you are going to win with great women. Wouldn’t any self-respecting heterosexual or bisexual woman want a woman-supporting man in her bed?
For married women the feminist men at the Women’s Marches are a reminder of all the men out there who want equal relationships.
I was talking with my friend’s husband who stayed home with their two kids, young boys under the age of 6 so she could come out and not spend all her time tracking down the kids. He said, “A lot of it doesn’t affect me personally as a white guy, but I think expecting that people are treated fairly with compassion and dignity is what we all expect. There’s this American idea of fairness. The American dream is about fairness, even if it’s not true we should strive for it.”
At the end of the day, we got our tired selves home to my friend’s neighborhood on the metro. Crowds were streaming off the metro into Takoma Park just outside DC and when we emerged onto the plaza by the metro entrance we passed a sweet, nerdy-looking guy in his thirties with a baby stroller. He was holding a sign scrawled on 8.5 x 11 paper written in blue-ball-point pen that simply said, “THANK YOU.” He must have been there to wait for his wife as she came home and to thank all the others who had gone to the Women’s March.
We said, “Thank you!” to him as we walked by. Really moved by him.
He said, “This is what a feminist looks like,” pointing to the baby inside the stroller. I couldn’t tell if the baby was a girl or a boy.
My friend Sara said, “You too.”
Here are some more of the men from the marches in DC and NY. NY photos supplied by my hottie feminist male friend in Brooklyn.
I was talking to someone yesterday about the political situation in the U.S. and she asked me what I mean when I said we have to fight to avoid the disaster of Trump.
She asked, “What do you mean by the word ‘fight’?” I could hear the note of concern in her voice.
I said fighting means making our voices heard. You could call that being vocal. Or resisting.
I’m afraid many people don’t understand why we live in the world we live in today.
Women have the vote because they fought for it. Men didn’t just wake up one day and say, hey, you cuties, let’s give you the right to vote. Women fought hard for suffrage. (Watch the movie Suffragette for a reminder.)
Schools are desegregated because of the civil rights movement. That’s not because people in power decided, let’s do away with discriminatory laws. That’s because Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and millions of others came together to march for justice over and over again.
Weekends exist because the labor movement fought for them. TGIF was not inevitable!
At the moment, Democratic leaders are not bucking up and fighting (at least that we can see) and it’s up to we the people to fight. Elected leaders take action because their constituents force their hands. That’s what the Tea Party did with great effectiveness in 2010. Nothing good is going to happen when we “wait and see.” Things change when we become vocal. When we fight.
I think a lot of Americans are uncomfortable with the idea of being a fighter. Argentines are much more into fighting than we are. We are a kind of conflict-averse people in general.
You might associate fighting with a shouting match or pulling a gun on someone. That’s not what I mean. By fighting, I mean getting clear about your role as as an advocate and resister. When you are resisting fascism, being a resister is being a PATRIOT.
FIghting means working together with others for a vision of a better way. It means connecting with your values. It means writing letters, making phone calls, going to physical events, and hosting meetings.
In addition to being an author, coach, the founder of the quirkyalone movement, a tango teacher, and many other things, I’ve been working for social change for my whole life. I’ve fought for health care access or the right to organize a union. I’ve advocated for bisexual respect in the gay rights movement (I went went on Ricki Lake to do it!) and fought for tenant rights in San Francisco. I also studied social change in college.
My very first job out of college was doing PR for labor unions and I learned a lot about which messages work to motivate people to want a union in their workplace. No one wanted to fight. The messages that tested well were “working together works” because people wanted a voice at the table with their bosses. Coming together via a union would give them a voice.
That sounds great, and I think it’s what most of us want. We want to be collaborate. We don’t want to fight.
But we can’t live in la-la land. Trump does not want to work with others. He wouldn’t even want to work with his own supporters. He has shown us that with every appointment to his Cabinet: wealthy, billionaire types whose animating mission has been to destroy the very thing each agency is designed to protect: the environment, public education, civil rights, drug safety, world stability. White House policy is being shaped by chief strategist Steven Bannon who published stories with headlines like “The Solution to Online ‘Harassment’ is Simple: Women Should Log Off” and “There’s No Hiring Bias Against Women in Tech, They Just Suck at Interviews.” It’s a fantasy to think we can work with them.
I know you don’t all believe as I do, and that’s perfect. That’s quirky. We all believe differently and that’s how it should be. You might even think Trump is a great leader or that his presidency won’t really be that bad. I don’t want to tell you exactly what to do because that’s not my role.
What I propose is this. I ask you to consider all the people who have come before you and the sacrifices that were made for your comfort and voice. For your ability to choose, to have birth control, to go to school, to have the freedom to divorce even, or go to desegregated schools. I ask you to feel into your own truth, and act accordingly!
There is still time to make a difference. The Electoral College was created for exactly this situation. Only 37 of the 538 electors need to vote their conscience on Monday, December 19 to change the outcome. This is doable. Today a Harvard professor who has been offering free legal counsel says he believes 20 are already considering not backing Trump.
Which means if you share that goal, we need to make our voices heard THIS week before the electors vote Dec. 19 to avoid a fascist catastrophe.
If you have never taken an activist step before now is a great time to make your voice heard by sending a letter, an email, making a phone call, attending a vigil, going to a protest, or even going to an event where your Congressperson will be.
This experience has made clear for me that my work for the personal development and empowerment of women (and quirky men) is in service of larger societal goals — I want women and men to speak out and use their voices for the goodness of society. I want you to feel empowered and connected to your voice.
In the absence of leadership from above, we are the ones we have been waiting for.
It’s time to make our voices heard THIS WEEK.
Changes happens when you speak out.
Even though this is as draining as fuck. I know. I’m drained too.
But your phone calls, emails, signatures, and physical presence matter.
No matter what happens, at least we can say we tried.
If you have not watched this speech from Madonna yet, I urge you to watch it. It will make you cry and it will give you chills.
Here are some choice excerpts, but trust me, watch the actual video!
“”I stand before you as a doormat. Oh, I mean, as a female entertainer,” Madonna said. “Thank you for acknowledging my ability to continue my career for 34 years in the face of blatant sexism and misogyny and constant bullying and relentless abuse.”
“People were dying of AIDS everywhere. It wasn’t safe to be gay, it wasn’t cool to be associated with the gay community. It was 1979 and New York was a very scary place. In the first year I was held at gunpoint, raped on a rooftop with a knife digging into my throat and I had my apartment broken into and robbed so many times I stopped locking the door. In the years that followed, I lost almost every friend I had to AIDS or drugs or gunshots.”
“In life there is no real safety except for self-belief.”
“I was of course inspired by Debbie Harry and Chrissie Hynde and Aretha Franklin, but my real muse was David Bowie. He embodied male and female spirit and that suited me just fine. He made me think there were no rules. But I was wrong. There are no rules — if you’re a boy. There are rules if you’re a girl.”
“If you’re a girl, you have to play the game. You’re allowed to be pretty and cute and sexy. But don’t act too smart. Don’t have an opinion that’s out of line with the status quo. You are allowed to be objectified by men and dress like a slut, but don’t own your sluttiness. And do not, I repeat do not, share your own sexual fantasies with the world. Be what men want you to be, but more importantly, be what women feel comfortable with you being around other men. And finally, do not age. Because to age is a sin. You will be criticized and vilified and definitely not played on the radio.”
“Eventually I was left alone because I married Sean Penn, and not only would he would bust a cap in your ass, but I was off the market. For a while I was not considered a threat. Years later, divorced and single — sorry Sean — I made my Erotica album and my Sex book was released. I remember being the headline of every newspaper and magazine. Everything I read about myself was damning. I was called a whore and a witch. One headline compared me to Satan. I said, ‘Wait a minute, isn’t Prince running around with fishnets and high heels and lipstick with his butt hanging out?’ Yes, he was. But he was a man.
“This was the first time I truly understood women do not have the same freedom as men.”
“I remember wishing I had a female peer I could look to for support. Camille Paglia, the famous feminist writer, said I set women back by objectifying myself sexually. So I thought, ‘oh, if you’re a feminist, you don’t have sexuality, you deny it.’ So I said ‘fuck it. I’m a different kind of feminist. I’m a bad feminist.'”
“I think the most controversial thing I have ever done is to stick around. Michael is gone. Tupac is gone. Prince is gone. Whitney is gone. Amy Winehouse is gone. David Bowie is gone. But I’m still standing. I’m one of the lucky ones and every day I count my blessings.”
If you are reading my website, I am going to assume that you are a feminist, and that you are probably experiencing grief and fear right now about what it will mean to live with a president who has no regard for women’s consent–or women at all. You may be concerned about living with the threat of fascism, or all the hate crimes that are being reported against people of color. All the swastikas. All the violence.
We all have to find our ways to channel our anger, metabolize our grief, and enjoy our lives through this difficult time. (And find ways to #resist.)
Thich Nhat Hahn is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, spiritual teacher and activist who advocated for peace throughout the Vietnam War. I always remember this opening line from his seminal book Being Peace.
LIFE IS FILLED with suffering, but it is also filled with many wonders, such as the blue sky, the sunshine, and the eyes of a baby. To suffer is not enough. We must also be in touch with the wonders of life. They are within us and all around us, everywhere, anytime.
Vox interviewed Phap Dugn, one of Thich Nhat Hahn’s disciples, to get advice for how to use mindfulness in times of conflict. In this interview, he suggests that we get off our computers and be with others. He says, “Community practice is crucial at this time. It’s crucial not to be alone in front of the computer, reading media. That makes the world dark for you. Find flesh. There are still wonderful things happening.”
One of my ways to find flesh and pleasure (and escape the darkness of the world) is by taking a private tango lesson. No greater bliss than that. Join us March 4-11 or April 15-22 in Buenos Aires to learn tango as a metaphor for your life and relationships, and even, to learn tango as a way to connect with your right to take up space in a male-led dance. These are some lessons that will come in handy for the next four years. It’s great time to get out of the country and commune with other cool women. Can’t wait to meet you here.
A lot of people are saying, “It’s not that bad,” “Let’s wait and see.” Some men I know are telling me “everything is going to be OK.” I personally don’t want to be told that everything is going to be OK right now. This is the power of denial. When someone shows you who he is, believe him. If someone mocks a person with disabilities, believe that person is cruel. If that person lies and say they never mocked the person with disabilities, we are dealing with a pathological liar.
I think I have a high capacity to look at the terrible shit that is happening in our country now because of the commitment I made to healing my own shit about four years ago, and this is what I am writing about in my current book project and what I help some coaching clients with. Healing from sexual abuse or assault. Sometimes people didn’t come to me with that but it comes up as we talk about other parts of life.
As I am reviewing a draft for a class where I need to submit 125 passages and an outline, I see a lot of the passages I wrote about my own life apply to this political situation too, the desire to throw your whole life up in the air in a radical way because everything feels so shitty (what some Trump voters wanted to do, voting for Trump for them was like throwing a grenade, and I did that in my own personal way years ago), the natural human tendency toward denial to stay comfortable (what many liberals such as Jon Stewart have been doing by saying, It’s not so bad, and what I did for decades), the need to look the truth in the face to make change and heal (that’s our only way forward, being real about what is going on).
I am writing about a churn in my life, and I think we are going through a churn in our country.
Here’s one passage that makes me feel this.
“I was in denial for a long time. It was too painful to look at the past. So I just kept moving, making lists, making plans, next date, next man. Until someday the fun catches up with me and I realize I never actually got to connect with anyone because I realize that I never unraveled whatever painful things that were holding me back. If we never look at the truth, we will repeat the same patterns. I would never suggest that everyone should move to another continent, but I would suggest that everyone take the courage to look at whatever they have been avoiding looking at. The thing you have been avoiding does seem to hold the key to freedom. What I would say much later is that the churn is for people who need a radical change in life, and the churn is what will bring their subterranean problems to the surface. There were things in me that were so deeply embedded that the problems were not obvious, what was causing me to be so unhappy, to believe I was unlovable, and to get lost in a job that I didn’t want, and it was through submitting to the wild ride of the churn that I could even discover what was actually even going on in my life. In essence, a churn is not to solve all your problems but to even know what your problems are. This is a big step. In order to heal you need to look at the thing you have most been avoiding looking at. In that thing you avoid the most, that’s where you find the path forward.”
Many will deny reality. In personal growth work and politics I believe that the path forward is always about coming into contact with reality, painful as it may be. Denial is very seductive but we cannot afford denial. And there’s a lot of fertility in shit. We need shit to fertilize our gardens.
Believe in yourself, believe in your voice. Quirkyalone is permission to take up space in the world whether you are single, coupled, gay, straight, bi, trans, disabled, any race, any religion. You as an individual have a dignity that is sacred. The worst instincts of people are being unleashed and magnified by a pseudo-leader who has legitimized cruelty and hate. But your dignity exists and it cannot be taken away.
This vision of the world being advanced by Trump would take us back 50 years before the civil rights and women’s movement. Quirkyalone emerged in a historical context where women have economic freedom. Where we learned we could choose relationships out of desire and not because of our need to be in them for economic survival. The world that Trump is advocating and his supporters long for is a patriarchal world where the white man is at the head of the table, and he saves us (and jobs) with his so-called strength. It doesn’t matter what his policies are or that they change constantly because his supporters trust him as the white male savior. We have come too far over the last 50 years to give up our dignity and go silent.
Your voice matters. It matters now more than ever. Every individual voice adds up to a vaster chorus of people calling for kindness and sanity.
From Pussy Riot’s amazing new music video “Straight Outta Vagina”
Susan Sarandon says she wouldn’t vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton because she doesn’t vote with her vagina. But what’s wrong with voting with your vagina? It seems like a great way to vote to me!
Here are five reasons that I invite you to vote with your vagina. And if you’re a man, go ahead and pretend you have a vagina! We women are asked to act like men all the time, especially at work, so hey, try it out, just for a day, see how it goes and let us know. My friend and fellow author Robin Rinaldi, author of The Wild Oats Project, says, “I’m proudly voting with my vagina. If I could get it to hold a pen or pull a lever, I would. Well, maybe not, but you get the point.”
Maybe you can’t hold a pen with your vagina or imaginary vagina, but here are some reasons why you can proudly vote with the intention of your vagina, at the least.
1) Your vagina knows things. Just ask it how it feels.
The vagina is a surprisingly strong place for intuition. Voting with your head and your heart too, but don’t leave your vagina out. Ask it! See what it says. I consult my vagina on all kinds of decisions. I just ask it, how do you feel? I wait and see if it purrs. I’m serious. I am not kidding! I’m writing about this in Wet!
2) When you vote with your vagina, you are voting for safety of all vaginas.
The vaginas of all women need to feel safe in order to walk through life healthy, happy, and to feel turned on. The Orange Cheeto who boasts of grabbing pussies doesn’t feel like the candidate who would give us that safety. My vagina for one instantly snaps close to the suggestion of a Donald presidency. No!!! Some people would say, well, Jill Stein also has a vagina but Jill Stein is not going to win and protect us from the threat of a Donald presidency.
3) The vagina is the source of human life–it must have something to say
The vagina has tremendous creative power. It’s where all human life comes from. This is literal and symbolic You don’t have to be a mother to feel the creative power of your vagina. As the proud owner of a vagina, you can give birth to many things in life–creative projects, gifts, communities, friendships, and your life itself.
4) The vagina likes pleasure and a Donald presidency does not feel pleasurable.
One woman mentioned that her vagina would prefer George Clooney in 2016. That’s a nice thought but if we must be real, a Donald presidency does not feel pleasurable. It feels terrifying. Terror disrupts the nervous system and puts us on high alert all the time. So if we are interested in pleasure we must do everything we can to avoid this fate.
5) It’s high time we have a vagina in the White House.
Since 1789, there have been 43 U.S. presidents. There has never been a vagina in the White House presidential office. Malcolm Gladwell explains here why people don’t like Hillary Clinton by saying what I have been saying over and over again. The answer is simple. The answer is sexism. The right wing has been going after Hillary since the 90s when she dared to say she wanted to fix health care and do more than bake cookies. No other First Lady ever was so bold to take on real policy projects and not diminish herself. She went on to become a Senator and a Secretary of State, and her approval ratings are high when she’s doing her job and low when she seeks power. Why? In 2016, people are still very uncomfortable with an ambitious woman. The dirty secret which is not a secret at all is that the US is still uncomfortable with women in leadership positions. That’s why people chant “lock her up” on the basis of nothing and slap bumper stickers about the size of Hillary’s bum on their car.
To move our country forward though it’s time to tap the power of our vaginas. And someone’s going to have to be first. Hillary is the one with tremendous grit to withstand so many attacks and keep going. And she’s tremendously qualified.
So, will your vagina be voting tomorrow? What does it have to say?
Before you vote, be sure to watch this new music video “Straight Outta Vagina” from Pussy Riot. It’s amazing!
PS. If you like me want to avoid four years of Donald, there’s something you can do to help. Make some phone calls right now, even ten minutes makes a difference when we all chip in. I endorse this calling tool for phone banking. This tool is great, I made calls using it Saturday. As my fellow author Sara Eckel (It’s Not You), who also writes on singleness, has put it, using this tool is a great way to alleviate election-eve anxiety.
PPS. I don’t normally do a lot of political endorsing through my platform as an author and coach. But this election is extraordinary we are looking at a situation where democracy is in danger and dictatorship is a possibility. States that were thought to be firewalls for Hillary Clinton like New Hampshire are now in play. Itt’s time to pull out all the stops to steer the country in the right direction. Vote, vote, vote, and make calls tonight if you are inspired. And the rest of the world, thanks for pulling for us!
If you are a quirkyalone, and you’re looking for someone to be your life partner, you may find yourself single for an extended period: months or yearssssss. How do you keep touch, sexuality and sensuality present and alive in your life while you are single? How can we be “wet” when we are single?
To answer these questions, I’m taking a little tiptoe into the world of podcasting with this podcast with the great Carolyn Arnold, a social scientist, educational researcher, and friend. At the age of 58, Carolyn started a 50 Dates project to find her life partner. She found him by date 49! I’ve interviewed Carolyn about what she learned about loving herself while she went through the ups and downs of dating here. What’s interesting about Carolyn too is that she had a lot of lovers while she was looking for love because sex and touch are important to her. She didn’t want to be celibate and she knew she wanted healthy touch in her life.
In this podcast, I interview Carolyn about how to have lovers and have sexuality be present in your life when you are single and looking for a life partner, and don’t want to be celibate. How do you avoid the pitfalls of misunderstandings, hurt feelings, fantasy/illusion (I thought this was the start of something but he never called!), crossed boundaries, doing more than you really want to do, and more. In essence, we’re talking about how to have clear communication before you get busy and have clear access to your yes and your no at all times. We give you some scripts you can use even.
Carolyn is working on a memoir about her 50 First Dates Project, and in this podcast, we talk about what she learned about having having sex and lovers while looking for love. Carolyn has gone to many Northern California alternative relationship and sexuality seminars and she has learned a lot about how to set boundaries and communicate what you want with a partner in open, honest, loving communication. I’ve been on a parallel journey, and so Carolyn and I have often talked over her kitchen table about how to have conversations about sex when you are dating.
Here are some things we talk about in this conversation:
• How to have a conversation about sex before (or while) clothes come off to avoid misunderstandings and disappointment. We give you some scripts you can use to open a conversation about sex. In essence, the conversation starts with the question, “Do we want to be sexual?” Carolyn thinks you can have this conversation before anything happens. I think it’s a little more natural after kissing.
• The “monogamous mindset of dating” (if you start dating and quickly become exclusive, you can get awfully attached when you start having sex, but are you sure this is really the person you want to be with?)
• Being truly at choice in sex at every moment and why this is important to have access to your yes and your no at any moment, and never feel you have to finish what you started (you have to be able to say no so that you can truly say yes)
• What is sex (is it just intercourse, or can we have a more expansive definition that might or might not include intercourse and might feel like what you actually want to do?)
• How to have supportive lovers while you are dating and looking for “the one”
• Menopause and why you might want to keep your sexuality alive during your 40s (based on Carolyn’s experience)
I published an essay called “What It Feels Like to Watch Trump as a Sexual Abuse Survivor” in Vice in the wake of the video documenting Trump’s sickening bragging comments about grabbing women’s pussies. As the headline indicates, publishing this essay was no small thing for me. Publishing this piece was the result of five years of my own personal work to be even able to name that this incident happened to me, understand how it’s affected me, and to then write about it in a national magazine. Wow. Healing the effects of sexual abuse and assault is actually a big theme in my current writing project Wet and in my work coaching women. And even in the Tango Adventure, because I’m using tango as a way to help women reconnect with lost parts of themselves, their sexuality and sensuality chief among them. These are parts of us that get stolen from us when we live in a culture where we don’t feel safe, but confidence and sensuality are important and powerful–it’s our birthright to feel good and feel pleasure in our bodies. Here’s the essay. Check it out and let me know what you think. Originally the essay attracted some terrible haters but then my quirkyalone readers came to the rescue with fabulous comments. You’ll see.
The psyches of all women are affected now. One of my friends posted on Facebook, “All women I talk to right now are so filled with fear and anger right now that someone who hates women this much and denies their consent could be president.” Another female friend wrote me, “I feel like Trump has climbed into my bedroom and I am thoroughly disturbed.” I have been on edge, more anxious that he could win, more worried about what I wear when I go out in the street, angry that a man who boasts about sexually assaulting a woman is at the top of the Republican ticket. I sent out a version of this editorial to a couple of newspapers and one op-ed editor wrote me back, “Interesting piece but this story has dominated the public conversation since Friday and now readers are starting to move on. I can’t use the piece.” The news cycle may move on, but we have not.
Trump brushes off his 2005 comments about grabbing a woman’s genitals without her consent by saying they are a distraction from important issues facing the country. It is not just a “distraction” when a woman (or man) experiences a sexual assault. A sexual assault has lifelong psychological and health consequences, not just a person’s ability to enjoy sex but also her mental and physical health on every level. Sexual violation certainly has not been “just a distraction” in my life. My experience was childhood sexual abuse, and it’s made it difficult to be in a healthy relationship and may have contributed to my autoimmune disease. Not a distraction. Not really.
How did we even get to the point where a man who boasts about sexual assault, and then says this is “locker-room talk,” is the Republican candidate for president? I wrote a calm clinical essay prosecuting Trump for consistent disrespect of women but when I showed it to a friend she said, “Where’s the emotion?” I wanted to stay factual because I was afraid of being called an “angry woman.”
There’s a lot to be angry about but I suppressed my anger for many years. I stayed silent about the abuse that happened to me as a child, never telling anyone until I was 18. No one told me to stay silent, but I grew up feeling it was my job to protect everyone else from the truth. Everyone else’s feelings mattered more than mine, and it was better to leave the room rather than stay in the same room with the abuser. The cost of sexual violation accrues in the silence and the shame that goes along with that silence.
I’m unwilling to be silent anymore. Trump is an abuser and he’s abusing (and gaslighting) the whole country. It’s obvious this is not normal locker-room banter. Most men don’t gleefully brag about sexually assaulting women. His pattern of extreme disrespect toward women is well established. Just last week he was up in the middle of the night tweeting about former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, calling her “disgusting,” and a “con,” and claiming she appeared in a sex tape with no evidence. He has been accused of rape three times (Jane Doe in California alleges he raped her when she was 13) and he’s said if his daughter Ivanka were sexually harassed it would be up to her to find a new situation. He also said on The View, “If Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.” (To which, the hosts laughed, “Oh, you’re known for saying outrageous things, who are you, Woody Allen?”) People making jokes about these comments is exactly how we got to this point.
Too many people don’t realize there are lifelong psychological and health costs for survivors of sexual assault. I’ve been researching the links between sexual abuse and emotional and physical health because I’m writing a memoir where an incident of sexual abuse is part of my story. Men and women who experience sexual violation often face years of feeling damaged, alone, and unlovable. Abuse and rape lead to clinical depression at rates 11 times the general population. Survivors struggle to enjoy sex, feeling like they are objects, and to form trusting bonds in intimacy. There’s a growing body of evidence that rape and sexual abuse negatively impact physical health too. Recovery from sexual assault and abuse is possible and it takes effort, courage, money, and often years.
Canadian writer Kelly Oxford shared five of her sexual assault experiences and asked other women to tweet theirs. She told the UK Guardian, for 14 hours, she was getting 50 stories a minute. Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network estimates that 1 in every 6 American women will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. I’d hazard those numbers are low because many people never tell a soul. As I’ve told people in my network about my writing project, 60% of the people I tell eventually confide a sexual violation happened to them too in childhood. They don’t always say immediately. That’s how deep the shame and silence goes.
Donald Trump will continue to say outrageous things for the next month, but let’s not forget: he was 59 when he boasted that he could he could grab women by the pussy whenever he wanted because he is a star. What I’ve realized from my own healing from sexual abuse is that anger has its place. Let’s not be afraid to be angry. Anger is a chance to draw a boundary, to say no more, to say back off. So it is with all my righteous anger that I say it’s inconceivable that we have even gotten to this point where this man is up on the national stage in the debates. A vote for Trump tells other people this behavior is OK. Republicans, you need to take responsibility for nominating this man. He needs to be off the Republican ticket. Now.
Sasha Cagen is the author of the cult favorite Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics and To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us. In her coaching practice, Sasha helps women get clear on what they want and go for it. A memoirist and a tanguera, she's passionate about using writing, storytelling and tango in her transformative work with women.
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